celeb rat i
ars of achievem e y 5
Hear to Help
â&#x20AC;Ś mending broken lives the Splitz way
â&#x20AC;&#x153;The government is clear that abuse is not just physical. Victims who are subjected to a living hell by their partners must have the confidence to come forward. I want perpetrators to be in no doubt that their cruel and controlling behaviour is criminal.â&#x20AC;? Theresa May, Home Secretary - August 2014
Contents Foreword 2 1: A hopeless situation
2: A source of strength
3: Wild and rebellious
4: Scrubbing an elephant
5: Making changes
6: From despair to triumph
7: Structures and procedures
8: Onwards and upwards
9: In the front line
10: Supporting the whole family
11: Thank goodness for funders
12: Babies who have babies
13: The Fran factor
14: Whatever next? 60 Our services 63
fact On average, two women a week are killed by a current or former male partner (Source: Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Aid)
Foreword I know that I echo the sentiment of a huge number of people when I say ‘very well done’ to Splitz on 25 inspirational years. At the front of the appreciative crowd stand previously desperate women whose lives have been transformed, children who have found a better future and male perpetrators of domestic violence who have had those ‘light bulb’ moments that have changed them for the better. My role as ‘supervisor’ to the Splitz team goes back some 17 years when I was asked to work with the early Making Changes workshops. At that time, Splitz consisted of just Fran Lewis and Denise Higgins; but Fran recognised very early on that there was a need for a rigour and a structure to their work – and an opportunity to download the stresses to someone independent. In a way, I am lucky still to be a part of things given that at the end of our first supervision session (before heading off for her then customary first cigarette) Fran’s only comment was: ‘I don’t know about you Den but I am brain dead!’ The progress I have been privileged to witness since then has been quite incredible. From one woman working in a single room (often her own front room), Splitz has grown to a team of close on 100 which takes the special formula well beyond its Wiltshire heartland. Along the way, it has taken on projects like the Newburn House mother and baby unit, Paloma, Turnaround programmes, the Buddy scheme and KidzPace, ensuring they have become great successes.
Key dates in the life of Splitz 1989 Splitz is formed as the North & West Wilts Single Parent Support Project Lone worker Fran Lewis is subsequently joined by Denise Higgins
1992 Team strengthened with Nikki Stevens, Kim Patton and Sue Pearce
1993 Name changes to Single Parent Families Association Domestic abuse workshops are launched
1994 Making Changes manual is produced to advance abuse work
Much has changed about the organisation over the years – not least that Fran has built an excellent and visionary crew around her. While her drive and determination remain pivotal, there is now a highly capable wider team of managers, support workers and volunteers. The staff are all very self-effacing about their successes, yet the changes they initiate through the different programmes are so often profound. Women who were previously in a desperate state find the confidence to say ‘no’ to relationships that damage them and their children. The young people in turn become happier at school; and male perpetrators can and do change. It is by tackling the problems at their roots that Splitz has so often broken the awful cycle. But what of the future? As Splitz heads into its second 25 years, the climate in which it operates is particularly challenging. While on one hand abuse in all its awful forms is on the increase, the public funding available to tackle it is being cut. Decision-makers at all levels in Government need to recognise that money spent now will not just avoid human misery (and potentially save some lives), but will actually reduce the long-term burden on hardpressed health and social services. In the meantime, Splitz must hope that the considerable loyalty it has earned amongst private funders continues and grows. Núala Grant, January 2015
1996 Name changes to Splitz Parenting Alone Support Service 1997 Derrik Copeland joins and goes on to become Company Secretary
2000 Wiltshire County Council slashes its funding support Splitz launches its own successful fund raising campaign
2003 Louise Wilson joins as a consultant Splitz annual income rises to £90,000 Newburn House mother and baby unit is launched with Westlea Housing Association
2004 Mike Bedford joins to launch children’s programme and then perpetrator programme
Author’s note: It has been a pleasure to research and write this celebration of the first 25 years of Splitz. I share the considerable admiration of my fellow Trustees for the talented team of managers and staff who deliver such vital support to service users across a wide area of western England. While the story is told in a roughly chronological fashion, some parts of it are timeless and the chapters that go with them similarly span wider timeframes. Sadly, it has not been possible to mention everyone who has contributed to 25 years of exceptional achievement; thanks go out to all the many participants, whether they are specifically mentioned or not. Nor has it been possible to run with any more than a fraction of the anecdotes that have been offered about working with the amazing Fran Lewis. Barrie Hedges, January 2015
© Splitz Support Service 2015
Generic images used in this publication are posed by models or are © Dreamstime.com
2005 Trustees’ Chairman John Taylor dies and is replaced by Paul Shotton Splitz moves to new offices in Duke Street, Trowbridge
2006 Annual income rises to £400,000 Investors In People accreditation is achieved
2007 Launch of the Splitz Buddy scheme
2009 Split wins threeyear abuse outreach project for Swindon
Fran Lewis is awarded an MBE in the Queenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Birthday Honours
Main office moves to White Horse Business Park, Trowbridge
Voluntary perpetrator programme is established in Bristol
Splitz partners GreenSquare Group to run domestic abuse outreach service in Gloucestershire
2013 Maurice Clay joins as Development Manager Splitz achieves Investors In People gold and PQASSO level 2 quality mark
2014 Splitz launches domestic abuse outreach service in Devon
TeenzTalk is piloted
While today’s Splitz consists of a multi-talented team spread over several offices, its origins lie with one woman who struggled with the harsh realities of surviving as a lone parent and who herself suffered abuse at the hands of a sometimes violent partner.
1: A hopeless situation She was in her early twenties – and life was decidedly tough. She lived alone with her two small children by a handsome, violent rogue who had spent most of his adult life in and out of prison. He had walked out on her and their two tiny girls and then, some months later, been killed in a motorcycle accident. She was so depressed that she had allowed her little council house to drift into a sad mess. Dirty dishes were waiting on the worktop to be washed, stale laundry was accumulating in little heaps, dull floors needed to be swept and the ironing board was abandoned and gathering dust. There was just about enough money to last through the week – but no will to do anything more than just exist. With no other adult to talk to and with no-one who seemed to care, daily life was a monotonous and meaningless existence, completely lacking in any joy. She felt no real pain – just ‘the emptiness of a dry shell’. She only just had the energy to make the dreary Monday morning pilgrimage into town to collect her benefits, pay the bills and pick up the groceries. On her return, she struggled to get the large pram through the steep entrance and parked it in the small alcove behind the front door. The bags of groceries had somehow stayed in place on the basket beneath the pram. They seemed to stare at her accusingly – demanding to be put away. Her tiny baby girl was asleep in the pram so she left her where she was, unbuckling the safety reigns from the toddler who trotted off happily into the lounge to play. As was her habit, she slumped against the front door, slid
down it and sank slowly to the floor to sit on the prickly door mat. She was empty, completely drained of any motivation to do anything. She was beyond tears. Life was, however, about to change in a way that she never imagined, not just for her but for the many whose lives she has since influenced. She recalls a large figure, radiating light, appearing on the stairs and asking if she would allow him to lead her towards a better life. Her memories of those moments are vivid and the effects were instant – a “rolling back of the blanket of despair” that engulfed her. The closeness to Jesus and the faith that was born then has been a fixture in her life ever since. It is an appropriate place for our story to start because the unmarried mother in question was Fran Lewis MBE who went on to build the Splitz Support Service, the widely respected support organisation that has provided hope for thousands of women whose lives otherwise looked as hopeless as her own once was. Many of those women – and sometimes men as well – have been abandoned, beaten or otherwise abused by their partners. While still holding on to its roots as a support service for people who are ‘parenting alone’, Splitz has responded by extending its remit to cover domestic abuse while also moving its circle of activity outside its original Wiltshire heartland. The 25-year story of Splitz is one that highlights the abhorrent scourge of domestic violence. While many of its service users have been physically assaulted, many others suffer from the emotional and psychological forms of abuse that can be so much worse. Their ‘bruises’ and ‘bleeding’ don’t show. The help that is on offer from Splitz has made a profound difference to a great many lives over the past 25 years. The beneficiaries include children who have witnessed awful incidents at home between the two people they love most and with whom they should be safest. At the same time, Splitz has also extended a hand to perpetrators of abuse, not as any sign of acceptance of their behaviour but in the belief that some can make fundamental changes. The highly committed Splitz team supports its service users in a whole host of ways. But often the most beneficial is simply being there to listen. Hence the title of this commemorative publication: Hear to Help.
“What we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop” Mother Teresa
The organisation that went on to become Splitz came into being as Maggie Thatcher was coming to the end of her epic three terms as Prime Minister. The Berlin Wall was being dismantled as the Cold War came finally to an end; and Tim Berners-Lee conceived the world-wide web.
2: A source of strength The story of Splitz as an organisation starts on 1 June 1989, when the North & West Wilts Single Parent Support Committee employed Fran Lewis on a part-time basis as a Development Worker. The task set for Fran was to make contact with those who were ‘parenting alone’ and help them to identify their individual support needs. Fran was in her mid-30s at that time and had been working for some years in Bradford-on-Avon Fran and her husband Dave in early days as a part-time housekeeper for the inspirational Dr Alex Moulton. He had achieved fame in the 1960s for his revolutionary small-wheeled Moulton bicycle design and for the independent hydrolastic suspension that was a feature of the Mini car. Fran worked for him three hours each weekday morning. She also worked an additional hour each day as a school dinner lady, arriving home by 1.30pm, so ensuring that she was back in time for her children’s return from school. Trina, Lucy and Tom were then aged between nine and 14. Life had changed considerably for the young woman who made a habit of
fact One incident of domestic violence is reported to the police every minute (Source: Women’s Aid)
sliding down doors and sitting on ‘prickly mats’. At the end of 1978, she had met a man who considered it an honour and a privilege that she’d agreed to marry him. She had only known him three months when she walked down the aisle with a radiant and confident smile on her face. After her initial visitation, Fran had regular exchanges with Jesus. In particular, she asked about the man she hoped would come into her life, insisting that she hoped he would “come knocking on the door” rather than her having to seek him out. Dave Lewis did just that and has stood faithfully by her side ever since. She refers to him as “my rock”, providing stability, common sense, caution, exceptionally good humour and tolerance. He is also, she says, stubborn. In her spare time, Fran helped to run a youth club for Trowbridge One Parent Support, a group for people who were parenting alone. Although she was no longer a lone parent herself, she had a great empathy with those who were struggling with what she recognised as a devastating situation. It was in her One Parent Support capacity that she was asked to join a fairly new steering group that aimed to address the problems faced by lone parents across a wide area of Wiltshire. It was a time when concern was growing across Britain about the plight of single mothers in an age when divorce was on the increase and young men increasingly shied away from the responsibilities and commitment of a pregnant girlfriend. 10
Fran joined the steering group that consisted of eight people including representatives from Relate, Wiltshire County Council, regional Gingerbread and the Council for Voluntary Services (CVS). The thinking was that the needs of single parent families were not being understood or addressed. As the group gathered momentum, Wiltshire County Council awarded a £5,000 grant to make it possible to employ a development worker to pursue the cause. Fran looked on with mild amusement as members of the group specified the person they were looking for on a flip chart. “I told them they were looking for God Almighty,” she recalls. “They assured me that was indeed the case.” After the first round of interviews failed to find the right qualities in one person, Fran was invited to apply herself. “I went home and talked it through with Dave who said I should go ahead. He said that if I got it, that was the right thing – and if I didn’t then that then that was the right thing too. “I was offered the job and Gillian Rawlins, the Chair, remarked that I had mentioned my Christian faith three times in the interview, to which I responded ‘yes and if I get the job, I will probably mention it a bit more than that’.” Fran remains absolutely confident that the Lord has been very much at her right hand and a constant source of strength when she has been unsure of the way forward. She makes no apologies for including him in her business day.
“People like you are priceless because the value of being helped to be emotionally healthy, free from abuse and the innumerable everyday restrictions that abuse brings cannot be measured in terms of money. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for guiding me on my journey” Splitz service user
A happy childhood during which her family lived for a time in a former circus caravan gave way to an unsettled adult life as Fran Lewis struggled with relationships and single parenthood.
3: Wild and rebellious While the organisation that is now known in full as the ‘Splitz Support Service’ came into being in 1989, you need to track back a few more years (and beyond Fran’s visitation) to understand what makes it tick. Splitz is nowadays much more broadly based with a talented management team and complementary skills, but it was originally built around the diminutive bundle of good humoured restless energy that is Fran. Born in South Wales where her mother was temporarily staying with her parents, Fran was brought up in Trowbridge in a working class family, the second of five children. Both her parents, Tony and Carmen Cannell, were A young Fran teachers. Her father also went on to project manage the building of Trowbridge College of Further Education where he became Vice Principal for most of his working life. Her mother taught in primary schools and also gave piano lessons to local children during the evenings (only charging half the normal fee for less well-off families).
While Carmen did her teacher training in Hereford, Tony went to university in Leicester after being demobbed at the end of the Second World War. Despite the geographic separateness of their courtship, they married in Tony’s final year - meeting once a month on the English / Welsh border. Two years later their first son Simon was born, the family settling in lodgings in Leicester. With his degree behind him, Tony initially got a job in a fish market. The story goes that, on arriving home from work, Carmen made him strip off at the back door because he smelled so awful! When the opportunity came to progress a teaching career in Trowbridge, Tony went there in search of a home
while Carmen settled briefly with her parents in South Wales, and that was where Fran was born 18 months after Simon. Tony’s search for a home for his growing family produced not a house but a second-hand circus caravan which he put on a site in Middle Lane, Trowbridge. Space was a bit tight but the children loved it and, 18 months after Fran was born, Tony was fixing a cot to the wall above the main bed to make room for Jeremy to join the happy little family. Fran loved it and recalls her father growing cabbages and Brussels sprouts outside. He was also, however, soon looking for a rather larger and more traditional home. Next stop was a three-bedroom council house of a prefabricated structure guaranteed to be four degrees warmer inside than out. Eight years later and, with the benefit of saving hard, came the opportunity to buy a plot of land and build their own home in Silver Street Lane where Sarah and Margaret (Meg) completed the family in the years that followed. While the family background was a comfortable and stable one and her education was good, Fran admits that she was “wild, rebellious and defiant” from an early age. She extended her education with three years at Trowbridge College before starting along her parents’ career “It was a job route via Newton Park Teacher Training College (now part of Bath University). and the people Meanwhile, she met and married a local man and were lovely” they moved in with his parents for the next four years whilst continuing with her higher education. The union was a dismal failure with unfaithfulness on the new husband’s part. After finishing at Newton Park College, Fran was offered a job at the local DHSS; first writing claimant giros and then as a clerical officer assessing supplementary benefits. “It was a job and the people were lovely,” she recalls. But with her emotional needs not met, and starved of affection, Fran cast the whole lot aside (much to her parents’ distress) for the love of a handsome – but sadly a hardening rogue – Ray. It was a year after starting the relationship with Ray that elder daughter Trina was born. Ray had, however, been caught breaking the law again and
fact More than 7% of women and 4% of men have been victims of domestic abuse in the past year Source: Crime Survey for England & Wales, February 2014
returned to prison for a long stay. His crime on that occasion was discussing a planned robbery with an equally drunken mate and then attempting to carry it out. The police were alerted by someone who overheard their conversation, and a sawn-off shotgun was found in the boot of Ray’s car. Fran remained besotted, and she and Trina were regular visitors at Horfield Prison in Bristol. She learned the hard way what it was like to be a lone parent, and set out to achieve recognition for the rights, not of prisoners but of their hard-pressed families. This early (and significant) first campaign on behalf of oppressed women included helping the BBC to make a documentary. Released from prison on parole two years later, Ray returned to the family home. Sadly, he spent much of the subsequent months getting drunk, being drunk or getting over a hangover. During those times, he was particularly violent at home. When she became pregnant a second time, Fran naively thought Ray would change. But five months later he dealt her a further blow when he left her and Trina for a young woman who offered him a life of no responsibilities and a ready source of free cannabis. A week before the new baby was due, Fran was persuaded by her parents to stay with them until the birth. She gladly accepted and life became civilised again, giving her a real opportunity to heal and gain a sense of wholeness she had not experienced for several years. The safe space enabled her to get a more rational perspective on her unhealthy relationship and draw a line under it.
“I attended the funeral, though I wasn’t wanted there. . . I couldn’t think straight let alone look after the needs of two small children”
After giving birth to Lucy, she returned to her parents for two more weeks before going back to her own small council house on the other side of Trowbridge. Ray subsequently tried to return several times but Fran was adamant that it wasn’t going to happen and that her parents would never forgive her if it did. Just ten months later, Ray was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. “I attended the funeral, though I wasn’t wanted there,” she recalls. “I went home afterwards and was so low you could have scraped me off the bottom of a boat with the barnacles. I couldn’t think straight let alone look after the needs of two small children.” 14
It was during the desperate period that followed Ray’s death that Fran had the spiritual experience that changed her life, then met and married Dave. Her life was back on course and the scene was set for her to lay the foundations for Splitz. It was also during that period that Fran learned the value of true friends looking after one another at difficult times. Unbeknown to her, a group of friends got together after Ray’s death, fearing that she would not be able to cope. Between them, they set up an informal support group which ensured that one of them called in to check on her at regular intervals through each day. Julie was the one to call in shortly after Fran’s experience with Jesus, and saw an immediate difference in her friend. “She looked about the place in its newly tidy state and couldn’t believe it,” says Fran. With Dave’s arrival came a new stability. “In all the things I have done since we married, he has always said to do what I wanted,” says Fran. “If it was something really wild like taking part in a raft race along the canal he would come with me to make sure I didn’t drown. He would never ever say not to do it. I have an awfully defiant streak. If someone tells me not to do something, I have to do it.” Understand that about Fran and you are well on the way to understanding why Splitz has come so far in its 25 years.
Brochures in the early days were of the cut-and-paste variety, and visits were made in a battered Marina. But the demand for support from lone parents grew quickly and a second pair of hands made a huge difference.
4: Scrubbing an elephant When Fran Lewis arrived for her first day with the North & West Wilts Single Parent Support Project in 1989, she thought someone was going to tell her what they wanted her to do. It was, however, soon very plain that what she did that day, and in the days that followed, was very much down to her. The brief was quite simply to locate single parents in the designated area and do what she could to help them in her allotted 20 hours per week. She worked from the Council for Voluntary Service (CVS) office in Bridge House, Trowbridge, travelling around to see her service users in a battered mustard-coloured Morris Marina that had been given to her. Her children were so embarrassed by the car that they ducked down if they passed their friends in the street. The area covered at that time was called ‘western Wiltshire’. With changes to council areas, this could be identified as much of west and north Wiltshire other than Wootton Bassett (it wasn’t Royal then), plus Devizes and its cluster of villages. It was a very large area across which to spread the word but Fran set to with gusto, first designing leaflets in Blue Peter fashion by typing the words and then cutting them out and sticking them onto A4 paper. “We added little pictures too,” she recalls. “There were no computers in those days to assist the process and only a photocopier on which to print. The only modest bonus was that we had the option to copy onto different coloured papers. Cut and paste meant literally cut it with scissors and glue it on!” “I designed my leaflets as tri-folds,” she recalls. “I sent 12 copies to absolutely every venue I could think of, from libraries to health visitors. Sometimes, I trotted around to talk to groups. “. . . it was all very The message was basically to get in inappropriate and against touch if you needed any help, advice or support. 16
all the rules. But there were no rules then”
“I used my home phone number because it was the only sensible way given that women would want to contact me at any time. By today’s standards, it was all very inappropriate and against all the rules. But there were no rules then.” Fran had been employed for six weeks when the first two significant phone calls came, both from women in Westbury whose husbands had left them with small children. Then the flood gates opened as awareness spread - and the idea of working 20 hours a week went out of the window. “It was a bit like scrubbing an elephant with a Brillo pad,” recalls Fran. “The job was so huge that you could only see a small part of it. All you could do was get your bucket of hot soapy water and do it a bit at a time. You knew fine well that as soon as you turned your back that elephant was going to roll in the mud again!” There was no question of limiting the time she spent on her working day. The individual needs of each service user were very different. “But regardless of where they lived, or what their circumstances, they needed someone to listen to them and take them at their word. I will always remember a lady called Eleanor Given coming to see me when I was a struggling single mum and the first thing she did was take her coat off and accept the offer of refreshment. This meant that she was going to stay long enough to have a cup of tea and listen. If you go into someone’s home like a hurricane, keep your coat on and don’t drink tea then it basically means you aren’t going to stay long and the message is that you’re not really interested.” Fran’s working week quickly became more than full-time, sometimes taking calls late in the evening. “Whilst this is certainly discouraged with our current
fact 30% of adult women have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16 Source: Crime Survey for England & Wales, February 2014
staff, at the time no-one talked about safe lone working and employment related issues. You just got on with it!” She adds: “It was a joy for me to help to make a difference in someone’s life and the extra time I had to give was worth it. I was frankly struggling with a job that was intended for two people to share but I coped.” After six months, the cavalry arrived in the shape of Denise Higgins who wanted to offer herself as a volunteer. Her husband had died two years previously, leaving her with two children. “She didn’t think I would want her because she was a Christian,” Fran recalls. “She offered to do part-time on a voluntary basis but went on to work flat-out. As time passed, we managed to get some money to pay her for 20 of those hours each week. We both got paid at that level but both worked more than double that. We used to laugh about it and make jokes about ‘welcome to the voluntary sector’!” The pair piled into the expanding workload and saw over 40 service users in their first six months and then over 100 in the first full year. “In those days, safe lone working for us was meeting up every few weeks and grabbing a bit of lunch so that we could tell one another how we were getting on,” says Fran. “I will always remember Denise telling me how she had visited a lady in Warminster who had been referred to the service, but the referring agency forgot to tell us that she had a quick and dangerous temper. On arriving at the woman’s house in the middle of winter, Denise discovered that the heating was broken so she lay on the floor to get the pilot light going on her boiler. It never occurred to her she had exposed her neck to someone who could harm her!
“We quickly learned that everyone who got in touch was very glad we were there to help and welcomed us. Neither of us ever came to any harm at all. However, it was a lesson learned and these days all our staff participate in safe lone working training during induction and we have stringent procedures in place to ensure safety.”
It was at that time that experienced counsellor Núala Grant took on a parttime support role, providing supervision to Fran and Denise. Núala was at that time working with Relate in Trowbridge and had a particular specialism in abuse. She helped them to reflect on the way they were working, evaluate objectives and assess the impact on their own lives. “They made a wonderful and very committed team,” recalls Núala. “While Denise was more cautious about the need for supervision, Fran very much saw the benefits. I found her completely down-to-earth and very grounded with “. . . a wonderful and great honesty and integrity. The tea and very committed team” hugs that are such a big part of Fran’s natural warmth give a misleading impression of the true sharpness of her intelligence.” What became apparent early on was that parenting alone was not the only problem for many of those who came forward. Domestic violence was also often a significant contributory factor to relationships ending. Service users were dealing with a number of emotionally complex needs and felt they were having a thoroughly miserable life. More calls were coming in all the time and soon the trickle became a flood, with the number of service users doubling in successive years. The area of Wiltshire being served was growing – the true scale of the problem had previously never really been appreciated.
More calls were coming in all the time and soon the trickle became a flood
Denise was a part of things for some 18 years before retiring to live in Goa. Tragically, she was murdered within a few months of setting up home there. The loss is still much felt by those who knew her within Splitz. “I will always value the work Denise did with Splitz,” says Fran. “She had amazing energy and was totally committed to the work. I missed her very much when she retired and we were all devastated by such a brutal end to her life. She will always be remembered by hundreds of people in this area; she made a real impact on their lives.” The volunteer team on which Fran initially built the service was bolstered in 1992 by the arrival of Nikki Stevens, herself a lone parent who began by running drop-in groups for service users and now coordinates the Paloma outreach project. She was soon joined by Kim Patton who insisted she didn’t mind what she did but was absolutely determined that she wouldn’t stand up and talk in front of groups or use flip charts. Today, she coordinates the Splitz
young people’s work – and doesn’t bat an eyelid when she delivers presentations! It was around the same time that Sue Pearce became a part of the team, initially as a Trustee but then deciding she would like to get involved in service delivery. Sue has gone on to become a very capable support worker and is also an extremely skilful facilitator with the volunteer perpetrator programme. Others were also coming forward to give their time to assist where they could. Amongst them was Derrik Copeland who had retired to the UK after a distinguished career as Company Secretary with BP in Zimbabwe. Hugely knowledgeable, Kim Patton - still making her mark Derrik soon became Treasurer, Company Secretary and a member of the Trustee board, continuing in the two latter roles until he finally decided the time had come to retire at the end of 2013. His contributions to daily life within the charity were many and varied and included writing out salary cheques and delivering them by hand to individual banks.
“We have been so lucky with the people we have attracted over the years”
“We have been so lucky with the people we have attracted over the years,” says Fran. “Some have come and gone again and it is not possible to mention them all here, but even those who stayed a comparatively short time have each made a mark on the way that Splitz has developed. We recognise and are grateful to every one of them.” While at that stage Splitz owed its existence to local authorities, Fran was by no means overawed when it came to taking on officialdom on behalf of her single mums. She recalls removing one heavily pregnant 17-year-old from a hostel in Warminster where she was expected to scrub the flagstones and cut the logs. Fran’s solution was to pack her and her few belongings into her car and take her home for the weekend before taking her to the local council offices to help her to sort out her own accommodation.
The confrontation with the social worker that followed was not an easy one, but became the foundation for a friendship that has endured ever since, based as it was on mutual respect.
On another occasion, Fran piled in to scrub the desperately dirty house in Bradford-on-Avon of a girl suffering from depression whose baby was in danger of being taken into care. The girl simply didn’t know how to clean up. Fran removed umpteen bags of rubbish, engaged a carpet cleaner – and even got the bulb taken out of a street light which was making it impossible for the girl and her baby to sleep upstairs. “I told the council that it was a case of light pollution,” she recalls. In Melksham, she was confronted by angry neighbours when she took her little team of four to clean the house of another single mum whose children were thought to be at risk. “My judgment was that we needed to create stability for the family and to ensure that the five children each had their own dry bed rather than huddling together on one mattress. We got proper beds and sheets and showed her how to run a system for laundry. “The house needed a thorough clean so I told my team I was going in on a voluntary basis over the weekend and if they wanted to join me that was fine. While we were doing it, a load of neighbours banged on the door to protest that we were using council funds to clean someone’s house. They even called in the local Mayor and I had to justify myself to West Wiltshire District Council. I simply explained that what I did on my day off was up to me and threatened to go to the press.” It is that inner steel which many of Fran can be fierce when those early service users came to standing up for people appreciate. A mild mannered lady who have no voice when it comes to fighting her own causes, Fran can be fierce when standing up for people who have no voice. “It comes from having parents who taught us to speak up for anyone who couldn’t speak up for themselves” she says. “I am not particularly worried about offending people if I know it’s the right thing to do. In my view, it’s not a question of who is right but what is right.”
Splitz fact Of £7m+ received over 25 years, 99% has gone on direct support to individuals 21
All too often, the problems of being a lone parent were compounded by also being abused by a partner. Supporting them took on a new dimension for Splitz in the 1990s as it broke significant new ground.
5: Making changes While the obvious parenting alone problems dominated the organisation’s work in the early days, it was increasingly evident that domestic abuse was often an embedded underlying issue that affected many women on a much wider basis. Abuse – whether of a physical, emotional, financial, psychological or sexual nature – has been around since time began. But in the 1990s came a growing commitment to drag it out from under the carpet and do something about it. Splitz was very much in the front line of that new determination to support women who were being hurt behind the curtains of their own homes and who dreaded their partners coming home.
“. . . many women simply put up with abuse as an accepted part of their lives”
“We recognised that many women simply put up with abuse as an accepted part of their lives,” says Fran. “They often feel that they are in some way to blame. It’s a big step from there to seeking help and being prepared to make changes.” In 1993, the decision was made to set up a specific structured piece of work to respond to the huge issue of domestic abuse. Fran and Denise met regularly with Steve Boocock of the Probation Service and Patrizia Whyte from the Help Counselling Service to design and build an eight-week programme of Making Changes workshops to help victims identify, come to terms with and overcome their personal difficulties related to domestic abuse.
One of the most useful parts of the programme involved bringing women together to share their experiences. A major additional benefit lay in reducing the isolation that so many survivors experience. Often, after the workshops programme had ended, women would form themselves into small, informal support groups and continued to meet together regularly. Many friendships formed then continue to this day.
Making Changes workshops have given hope to many
Steve Boocock was responsible for the Probation Service’s Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme for perpetrators. He was particularly supportive of the objectives and many key ideas came from him, providing advice, guidance and then overall supervision of a completely innovative initiative. He also ensured the three key staff had effective supervision and support and provided a meeting place for the workshops. Working in partnership was inspirational. Very few organisations came together in those days in order to achieve change for service users. Steve relishes what was achieved. “What we were embarking on was what is now described as multi-agency partnership working and is the standard approach to not only work with domestic violence but with many other interventions. At that time, however, it was far from an accepted approach and was met with a fair degree of resistance and scepticism. “In Fran I saw a kindred spirit – someone who was prepared to take a risk and push boundaries in order to make a difference. We also shared a similar view that there was a serious flaw in an approach that sought to address the issues facing those involved in violent relationships in isolation. In my work with abusers I needed to make an impact on perpetrators, with the needs of victims at the forefront of the design “. . . it was far from an and delivery of any programme. accepted approach and Fran meanwhile recognised that, for her work with women to be effective, was met with resistance”
she needed to have an understanding of how abusers think and behave. “One of the other challenges we faced at that time was that there were very few domestic violence intervention programmes operating in the UK and few sources of advice or information on how we should be doing it. In hindsight, this also hampered those detractors “. . . we shared the belief who were keen to tell us why we shouldn’t. that failing to plan was
planning to fail”
“Although we were both willing risk takers in the venture, we shared the belief that ‘failing to plan was planning to fail’. Researching the work that had taken place internationally, it was clear that the Duluth model was one that we could take much from and one that would shape our approach to creating Making Changes.” Fran vividly recalls one participant who had escaped from Europe back to the UK with the help of the Catholic Church after living abroad for over 14 years. “She came along to the first workshop but almost sat outside the group in a very hunched up state and said ‘none of you will understand what I have been through.’ Her husband had abused her terribly because he said she didn’t make the coffee properly and she somehow accepted the resultant violent explosion as her fault. It was the final straw of years of abuse, cruelty and unkindness. However, before our first session had ended, and she’d listened to the stories of the other women, she recognised that there wasn’t a measuring stick or a set of scales to see who had suffered the most. She knew she was an equal participant and her contribution in the forthcoming weeks was highly valued.” Fran adds: “Another lonely young woman allowed a man to move in with her after he had spent weeks grooming her at the pub where she worked. She had very quickly succumbed to his charm and formed a strong attachment to him. Within a fortnight, he had moved into her flat and took complete control of her whole life.
“The final act that helped her to wake up, was when he held her in a vice-like grip with a knife to her throat ordering her to phone her elderly widowed mother to say what a wonderful man he was. He threatened her life, the life of her mother, her dog, stole all her money and got her into debt – and “Making Changes has she thought it was all her own fault. helped women move from Making Changes helped her to see being gibbering wrecks . . . where responsibility lay and she gradually came to terms with what to leading fulfilling lives” had happened to her.
“Making Changes has helped women move from being gibbering wrecks hiding in the corner to leading rich, fulfilling lives. It does your heart good to see the hope that it gives them.” One participant at that time who has since gone on to become a volunteer Buddy recalls her own introduction. She tells of being let down by the person who had promised to look after her daughter while she attended a workshop. “I arrived at the workshop with my daughter, which was obviously a nonstarter. Fran just took over – she took my daughter off to a skate park for a couple of hours where they had a great time. She even paid my bus fare and babysitter costs so that I could come to workshops.” Such was the success of the workshops that the decision was taken to publish all the materials that had been amassed for the Making Changes workshops as a manual. Its publication in 1994 was an important landmark for Splitz and a clear statement that domestic abuse was now a central part of its remit. Innovation was always implicit. Kim Patton recalls taking a lead in a typically bright ‘Fran idea’ to set up separate art workshops where abused women
Splitz fact Over 17,000 referrals for support have been actioned since 1989 25
would more readily relax together and then share their problems. “There was only a small amount of money available but we managed to provide the materials to run three workshops for eight women at a time and to provide a crèche for their children,” says Kim. “They found the whole thing so calming and helpful, and liked the experience so much that some set up their own small support group when our course ended.”
. . . the beginning of an important new phase nationally of being more proactive about domestic abuse
While other organisations were by that time attacking the problem in other areas of the UK, Splitz was very much at the forefront and copies of the manual were widely requested by others who were at an earlier stage in the process or who simply wanted to benchmark. It was the beginning of an important new phase nationally of being more proactive about domestic abuse. The Making Changes workshops remain a key part of Splitz today and have changed the lives of many women and their children. Now headed up by Nikki Stevens and her staff, and much modified, they have been extended into a 12-week programme with additional material included. Always strong on human warmth, the sessions also now have the warmth of atmospheric variety provided by music, candles … and (of course) cake!
Funding was always fragile in the early days and much of the Splitz work depended upon staff hours that went unpaid and on volunteers. But even that frugal existence came under threat in 2000 with plans to remove the grant that provided the anchor for its work.
6: From despair to triumph It was inevitable in an organisation that was extending its focus as well as its geography that the name it started with no longer fitted. So it was that the North & West Wilts Single Parent Support Project of 1989 became the Single Parent Families Association in 1993 and then the Splitz Parenting Alone Support Service in 1996. Finally, with domestic abuse very much a key part of its remit came today’s Splitz Support Service in 2005. But for anyone who knew it, the organisation was – and remains quite simply – Splitz. The memorable little title was the brainchild of a former Trustee who is fondly remembered for coming to committee meetings in yellow cotton trousers. Splitz existed through much of the 1990s on a very modest annual budget, of which £19,000 came as a grant from the then Wiltshire County Council. The council’s support had brought the organisation into being and, with annual inflationary increases, it remained the core of the funding equation into the new millennium. Things were bowling along well but then came a potentially disastrous blow. In 2000, the county council suddenly informed Fran that it would no longer financially support the organisation and was shifting its priorities elsewhere. The modest grant on which Splitz relied for its existence was to be axed. The charity was give three months’ notice of its fate and offered help with an ‘exit strategy’ to close down the service. “We were in total despair and grief,” recalls Fran. “Everything we had worked for over the previous 11 years was to come to an end because politics said the money should now go elsewhere. I was angry, upset and shocked and said I would discuss the situation with my Trustees.” 27
Wiltshire Times Series - December 22nd 2000
Angry Splitz supporters tell Wiltshire County Council what they think
The trauma of the situation quickly gave way to a determination to do what was necessary to save an organisation that had in itself become a saviour to so many desperate women. The most effective weapon lay in publicity, and the Splitz team used it to full effect to pressure the county council into a partial change of heart. Fran (who had been elected as a district councillor for Bradford-on-Avon the previous year) registered her wish to speak at the full county council meeting that would confirm the decision. Outside the building, angry mums noisily protested, wielding banners proclaiming ‘Save Our Splitz’ and pushing babies in their buggies. Bagpipes played ‘Scotland The Brave’ – and TV wagons rolled up to relay it all to the wider population of the south west. Even social workers (much to the annoyance of their bosses) signed a petition saying they didn’t want Splitz to close. Fran’s speech to the council was a bold one. She had just five minutes of allotted time but took little notice of that on the basis that “they wouldn’t dare shut me up”. She told councillors that for a very modest £19,000-a-year Splitz not just reduced misery across Wiltshire but actually saved the authority money because of the reduced load on its social services department. She also explained that, by securing (at that time limited) other grants, Splitz attracted external funding to the county.
In the end, the best that could be achieved was a promise of just £3,000 from another county budget. Fran walked away with her notes, still facing disaster,
but with a burning indignation and a determination that 11 years of good work would not come to such a premature end. An ‘exit strategy’ was not what she had in mind. The pain of that situation was a turning point for the Splitz team and Trustee Board as they piled into a new world based on finding independent potential funders and persuading them that the cause was a worthy one. Fran wrote the very first Splitz business plan and set about building on the previously limited support from external grant-making trusts. Her appeals did not fall on deaf ears – funds steadily began to appear to fill the gap. It was, she decided, a clear message to keep going. In the spring of 2001 came a huge boost. Splitz was awarded a three-year commitment of funding from the J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust to pay 16 hours-a-week for Nikki and Kim Splitz was awarded a who had become a vital part of three-year commitment of the growing organisation. “Their administrator came to visit me and funding from the J Paul spent most of the morning learning Getty Jr Charitable Trust about our work and finished by promising that she would recommend us for a grant,” recalls Fran. “That was the point at which I knew we could continue.” Others also responded and, in less than three months, a total of £86,000 flowed in. Despair has been turned into an outstanding triumph and a platform for the future. “It was a hugely tough and frightening lesson,” Fran recalls. “We had learned the hard way not to rely on one main funder because if they pull the plug you are stuffed.” Between 2000 and 2003, financial support was forthcoming from the National Lottery, Comic Relief, BBC Children in Need and the Blagrave Trust. Grants needed to be applied for and correspondence dealt with; but, equally critically, feedback and reports on work accomplished had to be delivered on time. New disciplines had to be applied to sustain this brave new future. The time was ripe for Louise Wilson to join the team.
Splitz fact Nearly 1,000 referrals for perpetrator programmes have been processed since 2005 29
People have undoubtedly been the greatest asset for Splitz over the past 25 years – from staff through to volunteers and Trustees. The arrival of Louise Wilson in a management role in 2003 was a major step into the future organisationally and she led the nervous move to new offices within Trowbridge in 2006.
7: Structures and procedures Trustees have an important overview and advisory role in any good charity – a reassuring sounding board for Fran Lewis and her management team. Over its lifetime, Splitz has been blessed by a diversity of experience spread across individuals who have each brought value to the cause. The key role of Chairman of Trustees was initially held by Gillian Rawlings who was a strong participant with the original steering group. In 1994, Gillian handed over chairmanship to the late George Ball who, as an officer of Wiltshire County Council, had secured the organisation’s first crucial grant. When George and his wife left the county to go to Bible School three years later, Bernard Rossiter took over as Chairman between 1997 and 2003. On Bernard’s departure, the role was very capably taken up by John Merrick Taylor who had enjoyed many distinguished years at a high level in the grocery business. As Chairman, John always ensured that he captured the views of the quieter Trustees, including the service users who were at that time part of the Board. But if funding was the big issue through the early years of the new millennium, John’s unexpected death in 2005 came as another huge blow to the organisation and to Fran personally who also in that period lost her father and her pastor. “These three men were anchors in my life and for a while I felt a bit like a bobbing buoy on a turbulent ocean. This was another situation when I learned to strengthen my faith. It reminded me that life is a bit of a journey with lots of bumpy roads!”
“. . . life is a bit of a journey with lots of bumpy roads!”
Louise Wilson – a new anchor
The majority of the Board of Trustees in 2004
It was on John’s death that Paul Shotton took over. Paul is a senior manager with a London borough and has worked in housing organisations for 34 years with particular experience in performance monitoring and IT systems. He in turn is about to hand on the reins again (to Vice Chairman Francis Wakeham) as this commemorative publication goes to press in January 2015. Perhaps the greatest of all good fortunes on the leadership front came with the arrival in 2003 of Louise Wilson who is now Operations Manager. Her contrasting personality and abilities form a perfect complement to Fran’s, and together they create a formidable and much admired team. Louise grew up in Glasgow where, in the 1960s, her father was an early expert in the emerging computer industry. It was from him that she learned to be methodical and logical. After a period as a Trustee with the original YMCA, Louise joined the RAF and specialised as a provost officer – a military police role which involved her in security inspections and surveys. It also, crucially, necessitated the capacity to understand the big picture and then to put procedures into place to make it happen. In the early years of the new millennium, Louise had found herself handling IT training for the Learning Curve charity, which was one of a number of organisations operating from the rabbit warren of Bridge House in the centre of Trowbridge. Elsewhere in the building were Fran and her volunteer team. “Fran was bubbly, outgoing and energetic – and she never stopped,” recalls Louise. “She would pop into my office and say she had something that didn’t work on the IT front and would I lend a hand. I didn’t mind because I liked her infectious personality. It was nice to have someone to talk to because I was often alone in my office. “At that time, the charity’s facilities consisted of a tiny office about 12 feet by six feet and at one end Fran had kitchen cupboards on the wall and a counter with a tea station which she used to sit next to. There was a big mural on the wall that had been painted by one of the service users.”
Louise moved to the United States for a while to pursue other interests, but when she returned, she found Fran once again very keen to use her skills – but this time on a consultancy basis. Fran picks up the story: “While we had become A growing team – Splitz staff in 2004 friends, Louise always said that she would never work for me because I could be so frustrating organisationally. At my end, I saw that things were changing in the world in which we operated. We had gained Supporting People funding, which was managed by the county council, and that required us to show that we did things like risk assessments and demonstrate quality and governance. That needed special management skills and I knew that Louise was the right person because she had immense respect for our work, she understood computers, processes and procedures – and she knew how to put them into place. Every element of our work needed a document to back it up and I wouldn’t have known where to start.”
Louise finally succumbed to the amiable pressure . . . referred to as ‘being Franned’
Louise finally succumbed to the amiable pressure which other staff, volunteers, Trustees and contacts refer to as ‘being Franned’, and accepted a consultancy role with the express responsibility of putting the necessary procedures into place and building the databases that went with it. She recalls: “When I first came to Splitz it was quite clear that these people were passionate about what they did, but as a business they didn’t have the structures and procedures to support it and report back on how effective their work was. Everything was done on the back of a fag packet. Fran’s database at that time consisted of yellow cards. Every so often she would tally them up on a sheet of paper with a grid on it. Her calculations never quite added up. She was often one number missing and she’d sit there all afternoon sweating it out until she’d found the error.”
Initially appointed as Data Officer with responsibility for the database and the systems that went with it, Louise’s subsequent promotion to Operations Manager allowed Fran to devote more of her time to strategy, though she readily admits that it wasn’t initially easy to relinquish her tendency to do
everything herself. Louise became an important new anchor for Fran, as well as her occasional sparring partner. Patience is, she says with a smile, an essential part of her role! The need to ensure that the figures did indeed add up, and the increasing demands of managing the growing human resource, resulted in the recruitment of two other key members of the Splitz senior management team. Diana Bingham became Financial Controller, while Janet Carpenter took responsibility for human resources and for financial support. Together, they still ensure that the Splitz wagons stay on the rails – and do it with great humour and a never failing ‘can do’ attitude. At about the same time, Splitz formed a consortium with three other local service providers and submitted a successful bid to provide the housingrelated floating support service for Wiltshire. This meant that the small charity would be employing at least eight more people and that it would need to think seriously about finding bigger premises from which to operate. The process of change that was A bold decision to move underway through the early years from Bridge House - its of the new millennium saw Splitz make a bold decision to move from home for the first 17 years Bridge House, which had been its home through the first 17 years of its existence. It was, however, not an easy prospect for Fran. “That office had become a sort of comfort blanket to me and I was quite terrified of moving even though I knew it was time,” she says. “All we had was one main room and another smaller room for meetings. We employed about ten people at that stage, and if they all came in it was a bit chaotic. I was too often distracted which, of course, I loved! But it would take a while to get my head back into what I was doing. I knew more emphasis was needed on the strategic side. “Transition is never pain-free and I really struggled with the changes that I knew were necessary. But in order to start a new sentence, you need to put a full stop after the last one. I had a lot of conversations with the Lord in order
Splitz fact Over 50 volunteers have been trained for the Buddy mentoring and befriending scheme since 2007 33
to be sure I was still on the right path. I have learned that no-one comes to Splitz by accident, and I needed to learn to trust the people who were placed there to help me.” Fran and Louise began to look at new premises. The process of trekking around a number of evidently unsuitable options was made all the more difficult by Fran’s aversion to change. She grumbled to her Lord a great deal and made her views known to him in no uncertain terms. Eventually, she quietly sought his guidance and was given a verse from Isaiah 54 which said ‘enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your guy ropes and strengthen your tent pegs for you will expand to the left and to the right’. This came after several grim weeks and visits to “nasty” office spaces that would have taken months to make habitable. But then came a phone call from an estate agent to say that new premises in Duke Street, Trowbridge had become available that lunchtime and he would show it to Fran and Louise that afternoon if they were interested.
“. . . a horrible toilet and thousands of staples embedded in the mangy old carpet”
“There was a horrible toilet and thousands of staples embedded in the mangy old carpet,” recalls Fran, who remembers then sliding down the wall to slump in a heap on the floor. “Louise, however, was rejoicing in the potential. There was a lot of work to do to bring it up to speed but, within a few days, electricians, plumbers and walldivider specialists had all been engaged to transform it into a comfortable new home. We moved into our new offices in a matter of just three weeks.”
Splitz statistics Genders over Splitz’ 25 years Male referrals 18%
Female referrals 82%
Fran was still grumbling and convinced that they couldn’t really afford the cost of the new offices as the rent and utilities were double that which had been paid at Bridge House. But, as happened again in 2012 with the next move, “the money just came in”. Fran’s faith helped her through that as through so many other periods of self-doubt. It was helped greatly by an important new infusion of work. “The contract to deliver Community4 (a housing-related floating support service for Wiltshire) came at a point which gave us some of the extra money we needed, so I really didn’t need to worry,” Fran says. “The Duke Street premises seemed a massive amount of space, but before we knew it the place was bulging with people and I again didn’t have the space to think!” So it was that a charity that nearly went bust in 2001 for the want of £19,000 was, by 2003, on an income of some £90,000. By 2006, that had climbed to around £400,000. As has always been the case with Splitz, the new funds were spent where they were needed – on front-line services. Says Fran: “In those years, we appeared to expand fairly quickly but it was controlled growth rather than erratic sprouting, and new developments never got out of proportion. It was also organic in that it came from within rather than being dictated externally. We made sure we strengthened our infrastructure accordingly so that we could deliver our developing services. “Although we run the organisation like any other commercially viable business, we never lose sight of our main purpose, which is to help people who are struggling during a period of their lives when they simply need someone to lend a hand.”
Splitz statistics Income and expenditure by a five-year period 50 45 40 35
25 20 15 10 5 0
The second half of the 2000s brought growth at a substantial rate as the Splitz formula attracted further business. By 2012, important further accreditations had been achieved and the need for more space had resulted in a further move to larger offices on the edge of Trowbridge. Splitz also celebrated a major new contract in Gloucestershire.
8: Onwards and upwards It was a short hop in terms of distance, but the move across Trowbridge town centre from Bridge House to Duke Street in 2006 was a significant landmark for Splitz. For Fran Lewis, it was about accepting that the ‘offspring’ she had nurtured for some 17 years was ready to make a major growth surge, and that its funding stream was more secure than she dared hope. Soon after taking on the offices in Duke Street, Splitz also opened a satellite office in Salisbury in order to provide local meeting rooms for workshops, children’s work and perpetrator programmes. The growth was organic and was being achieved without overstretching management resources and with tight control over the way in which the funding was spent. Louise Wilson continued to apply herself to the cause of satisfying the need for national accreditation awards, and producing detailed reports to give funders like BBC Children In Need, the Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief the statistics and reassurance that they needed while not interfering with the way front-line staff did their jobs on the ground.
Cake has an important role
“We were doing well and had built a solid reputation for quality services that really made a difference,” says Louise. “But that was no longer sufficient. We had become a true business and we were employing other people’s money, the spending of which had to be properly justified. We also had staff who needed opportunities to build on their skills.”
She would be the first to admit that the subsequent award of Investors In People accreditation was not too difficult to achieve because Splitz only had to formalise the habits that were already in place. Louise also began to put in place training and marketing programmes. When it came to publications ranging from an annual report to leaflets to promote services, she not only drew the information together but also developed the artwork herself to minimise external costs. With her much loved Apple Mac at her fingertips, she even built and maintained the Splitz website. The admin upgrade was a lengthy and sometimes tedious process that required the odd bit of humour. Amongst the policies accumulated in the Splitz staff manual at that time was a ‘hug policy’ designed to bring a smile – as well as ensure that the natural warmth within the organisation stayed within reasonable bounds! It hasn’t found its way into written form yet, but Splitz also has an informal ‘cake policy’ which ensures that the sustenance available at many meetings goes beyond basic biscuits. Even after a long day, Fran (and others) are very happy to go home and bake ahead of an important meeting. Cake and hugs have become trade marks for an essentially friendly organisation which very naturally looks after its people. The Executive Director has even been known to go out and fetch cakes into the midst of a particularly fractious meeting. Services were meanwhile developing steadily. With perpetrator programmes running in both Trowbridge and Salisbury, the organisation also piloted a Buddy scheme in 2007, where service users who no longer needed structured support could have a volunteer befriender. This project also opened up an avenue for ex-service users to participate in training and get The Buddy scheme opened involved in helping others.
up an avenue for exservice users to participate in training
Service users were asking for support services for their children, so Splitz successfully applied for three years of BBC Children In Need funding. With the various services county-wide across Wiltshire, Comic Relief also decided that Splitz was worthy of financial support to fund a children’s worker in the north and west part of the county
Splitz fact Since 2012, Splitz has provided support for over 3,000 people in Gloucestershire as a partner in its Domestic Abuse Support Service
New premises at Oak House
Fran with Investors In People Gold Award
and awarded three-year funding to assist delivery. The reputation for good quality services gained in strength and Splitz was also starting to deliver outside rural Wiltshire. In 2009, came funding for a three-year domestic abuse outreach service for victims in Swindon. The following year came a contract to provide two voluntary perpetrator programmes in Bristol. Then, in 2012, came the biggest opportunity to date as Gloucestershire County Council sought bids for a large contract to establish a domestic abuse outreach service. Splitz, GreenSquare Group and People Can successfully formed a partnership for the winning bid which was marred somewhat when People Can subsequently went into administration only four or five months in. Splitz and GreenSquare worked with the local authority to provide a temporary solution for eight months to give the council time to put the work out to tender again. GreenSquare and Splitz bid successfully and continue to provide a high quality service in partnership. Soon afterwards, Gloucestershire County Council asked Splitz to provide a voluntary perpetrator programme as a pilot, the work beginning in April 2013. There were additional funds for a second programme, thus providing a degree of equitable perpetrator programmes across the county. Success inevitably resulted in renewed pressure on space in the main office in Duke Street, Trowbridge, populated as it was by both operational staff and the small core team. Having baulked at the move there in 2006, Fran was similarly reluctant to shift again. But she equally recognised the problems that went with lack of privacy for often sensitive phone calls and the inadequacy of the meeting space.
â&#x20AC;&#x153;Moving from Bridge House was hard enough but Duke Street had become a very safe bubble and I worried that we could really afford the space that I
knew we needed,” she says. “We had come a long way and our confidence was growing all the time, but the next step was going to be a big one. I needed constant reassurance.” It took all of six months to find the right premises on the White Horse Business Park on the outskirts of Trowbridge. Once again, Louise threw her organisational abilities into making it work. A partitioning company quickly designed a floor plan and then put it all into place within a week, providing the organisation with two-and-a-half times as much space as at Duke Street. In a matter of days at the end of The financial reassurance March 2012, staff were unpacking some 60 crates in their new home at . . . came in the form of Oak House.
£30,000 worth of new and
One task Louise hadn’t initially unexpected funding factored into her thinking was how to get Fran to physically pack up her own possessions for the move. Her solution was a simple one – she removed the drawers from Fran’s desk and moved them in her own car! The financial reassurance Fran otherwise needed came in the form of £30,000 worth of new and unexpected funding. The move to Oak House also brought with it the addition of Maurice Clay to the management team as Development Manager. A former head teacher, Maurice had most recently held a management position with the ASK Wiltshire charity that specialises in parent and carer advice services. He settled quickly into his new role; his most notable early achievements included working with Louise to secure the nationally recognised PQASSO level 2 quality mark and Investors in People Gold.
Splitz statistics Referrals by gender by a five-year period 4500
3500 3000 2500 2000 1500 1000 500 0 1989/1994
Coping with stress is one of the key requirements for staff taking on clientfacing roles in Splitz. The big challenge is not to get so emotionally involved that you cannot provide objective advice.
9: In the front line It undoubtedly takes a special sort of person to work in the front line for a charity that specialises in domestic abuse. Whether the service user in question is a direct victim, an indirect one like a child, or a perpetrator with potential to change, the emotional drain on staff can be substantial. Around 90 of the current Splitz team of 100 are in front-line roles, working in a variety of programmes that deliver tangible support to those who desperately need it. Splitz additionally has some 19 committed volunteers who give their time to work on one or other of the projects. The combined experience of the paid and volunteer team is huge – and so too is their dedication and determination to bring about change. Sometimes, those who are now tackling abuse have themselves previously been victims and are keen to give something back. “We are blessed with some amazing people,” says Fran. “And the great thing is that most of them stay with us for a considerable time. They are totally loyal
Splitz statistics Self-referrals by five-year period 100% 90% 80% 70%
50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
to the organisation and to the cause. “Having myself worked in the front line, I like to think I can spot the qualities we need over a preliminary chat. “. . . they need to have no The real test is not whether they can talk the talk but whether they prejudices and to be noncan look in your eyes and listen judgemental about the because that is the most important service users they meet” skill of all. They also need to have no prejudices and to be non-judgemental about the service users they meet. Inflicting their own way of doing things on service users is not what it is about. “To get to the bottom of anyone’s story you need to listen. Your job is not to get down in the ditch with them but to stand on the edge and reach out a hand. If you get pulled in, you won’t achieve anything. “There is otherwise a danger that you will become so embroiled in their problems that you can’t stand back and provide the rational help that they really need. If you end up taking them home for tea or doing the babysitting then you have crossed the line between being a professional advisor and a friend.” Louise Wilson adds: “A friend will “A good support worker listen and then jump in with advice. will use their listening If the person in difficulty then skills to take on board the doesn’t take that advice, they tend to fall away. A good support worker whole, complex situation will use his or her listening skills to and help the person to take on board the whole, complex identify their choices” situation and help the person to identify their choices. We don’t tell them they must do this or that, and we emphasise that any decisions will be made at their own pace. If they have been abused, they have already been under someone else’s control and we don’t want to perpetuate that. We want to do the opposite, which is to give them the information they need to make choices for themselves.”
Splitz fact Since 2006, Splitz has supported over 8,000 people in Wiltshire as a partner in its housing support service, Community4
Fran is the first to admit that she has piled in to provide practical help, and would do so today if she felt that ‘walking the road with them for a bit’ would help to take them to a better place where they could cope with the day-to-day challenges. Having reached that point, they are then in a better position to go forward.
The job in the front line is undoubtedly an emotionally tough one at times
The one exception to the Splitz rules on confidentiality and encouraging service users making their own choices is when the support worker believes there is risk involved to the individual or to their children. But even in those situations, the worker is more likely to sit with the service user while she makes her own call to the police or social care. On the rare occasions where there have been concerns, it is more empowering for the service user to take it forward rather than the support worker. The job in the front line is undoubtedly an emotionally tough one at times. As Fran puts it: “If you have lost the ability to weep with those that weep then you are not in the right job. Even now, I hear stories that touch my heart – compassion is an important part of the work.” Splitz takes the emotional impact on its staff very seriously and provides external supervision on a regular basis so that they can download not just their professional burdens but any other life issues. It also means that the professional supervisor is able to maintain an independent overview of the problems facing staff members. Splitz is also passionate about the potential dangers of lone working and provides regular training. It follows the safe lone working model developed following the murder of estate agent Susie Lamplugh. Beyond all else, staff are expected to ensure that someone else in the team always knows where they are.
“You need to take sensible precautions but overall it is a safe job,” says Fran. “I envy our front-line staff and often wish I was still doing it. Seeing the change in service users is the most rewarding part about what we do.”
Children are so often the innocent victims of domestic abuse – for them, the emotional impact can be long term. The Splitz service factors in help and guidance for young people. It also aims to tackle the problem at its roots by working with perpetrators.
10: Supporting the whole family Reliable national statistics on domestic abuse are hard to come by, but Women’s Aid estimates that one in four women will suffer some form of domestic abuse during their lifetime. In the time it takes you to read this page, another incident will have been reported to the police. For them, it accounts for no less than 10% of emergency calls and at least a quarter of all reported violent crime, though only a small fraction of incidents end up Domestic abuse is a scourge going to court.
that remains a largely hidden crime, concealed by women who are often too ashamed and frightened to tell families, friends or authorities
More worrying still is the generally accepted fact that the cases that come to the attention of the police and other services are the tip of a very large iceberg. Domestic abuse is a scourge that remains a largely hidden crime, concealed by women who are often too ashamed and frightened to tell families, friends or authorities. There are also figures to show that men suffer domestic abuse from female partners to a far greater extent than is generally recognised. The men’s rights group Parity puts the figure as high as two-in-five of all victims being male. The simple fact is that, whether as a victim or a perpetrator, both the women and the men need support if the awful cycle of abuse is to be broken. There is also a critical need to provide help for the all too often forgotten child victims of violence in the home. Most will be affected in some way by the tension, arguments and assaults. Sometimes, they are themselves being abused. Tackling domestic abuse is a challenge that, in Splitz’s view, requires an holistic approach in providing support for victims, their children and
perpetrators also. While some other abuse charities shun the provision of perpetrator services, Splitz sees it differently. Its view is that while a man who is abusive towards his partner certainly deserves to be appropriately held to account, he is still capable of changing his harmful behaviour. Dismissing him from the outset as a lost cause will often simply perpetuate the problem. With many relationships having been successfully salvaged, there is good anecdotal evidence to support that belief. The fundamental belief that you arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t addressing the root of the problem without helping perpetrators is what has prompted Splitz to initiate a series of successful domestic With over 200 referrals for violence perpetrator programmes in Wiltshire, Bristol and up to 100 spaces, the service Gloucestershire. The 25-week is in great demand group sessions are designed for those who wish to change their harmful behaviour. With over 200 referrals for up to 100 spaces, the service is in great demand. Running in parallel with it is an integrated womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s safety service which aims to ensure that partners remain safe while men are undergoing the programme. The men who attend are also encouraged to attend a 12-month follow-on programme.
Splitz statistics Referrals by month by a five-year period 350 March
1999/2004 1994/1999 1989/1994
Mike Bedford currently leads the Splitz work with perpetrators, having also, over recent years, provided much of the inspiration behind the organisation’s programmes for children. It was as a senior non-commissioned officer (SNCO) in the Royal Army Veterinary Corps that Mike threw himself into youth work “initially as a means of staying out of the bar while living in the mess”. That self-effacing comment belies the sheer extent of a commitment that resulted in him being awarded an MBE in 1993 for voluntary youth work while stationed in Germany. Mike’s easy engagement with young people led to him becoming involved in family welfare issues and he ultimately transferred to the Army Welfare Service at Bulford in 1995 where he first became closely aware of domestic abuse as an issue. He was subsequently posted to Aldershot, where he became facilitator for a men’s group and built invaluable experience of the Probation Service’s perpetrator programme for service personnel convicted of domestic violence. “The army handles its domestic abuse work in a more integrated way than society as a whole,” he says. “Discharging a man who has cost many thousands of pounds to train is a substantial waste of public money. It’s usually not the same if he works for a civilian employer. The army wants to put men back together.”
Splitz fact Splitz scored satisfaction rates of over 90% for most servicesnearly and******over for all services Delivered hours80% of 45 direct support of which 84% was face-to-face
When he left the Army, Mike continued as Chairman of the Kennet Domestic Violence Forum and it was there that he was ‘Franned’ by Splitz’s energetic Executive Director who happened to sit in on a sub-committee meeting. “Splitz was working with adult victims of domestic abuse and Fran was concerned that there was no support for their children,” he recalls. “She wanted to put together a specific programme to help them through what they were witnessing because there was no such support in the area at that time.” A job description for a part-time children’s worker was cobbled together and the role advertised. Three applicants were interviewed and Mike was selected as the best candidate. He joined the Splitz team of about The children’s programme 10 working out of Bridge House, soon had 40 youngsters Trowbridge in 2004.
with a waiting list of a further 80 . . .
From a standing start, the children’s programme soon had 40 youngsters on its books with a waiting list of a further 80. Mike had to hit the ground, running and has been running at speed ever since! The gap in provision for a children’s service was indeed one that very badly needed filling, and one which the various referral agencies were very happy to see filled. “As soon as they knew we were there, the referrals for the children’s service came in hand-over-fist,” says Mike. “It was busy but I was given the autonomy to get on and do the job. We were so mutually busy that Fran and
I rarely saw one another – we used to catch up over the phone on a Saturday morning.” Soon after launching the children’s services in 2004, Fran achieved the funding that was needed to provide a voluntary perpetrator programme and Mike’s time was divided between the two roles. It wasn’t until 2012 that the accreditation process demanded his total focus on the perpetrator programmes as they went from strength-to-strength. The voluntary perpetrator programme consists of a weekly men’s group, with the women’s safety worker advising and supporting the (sometimes former) wives and partners of the men attending the group. Initially, around 80% of those attending the men’s groups were self-referrals and it is only in recent months that Mike has seen a significant change, with a higher proportion now coming through referrals from other agencies – usually social care or CAFCASS (the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.) Quite why that has happened isn’t yet fully clear, but it has meant a bigger challenge. The main objective of the programme The main objective of the is to enable men, who have come programme is to enable men forward voluntarily, to change . . . to change their abusive their abusive and harmful behaviour. However, some of and harmful behaviour. the participants now coming forward only want to attend so that they can resume contact with their children. They don’t always accept that their behaviour was the cause of them originally being refused contact with their children. “It is much easier to work with a man who is prepared to acknowledge that he has a problem,” says Mike. “He wants to be there because he wants to change his behaviour and he readily engages. You might get the odd one who tries to pull the wool over your eyes but you always have information from the women’s safety worker who is working with his partner and can challenge him if need be. “The men referred by other agencies often don’t want to be there and may well not acknowledge that they have a problem. Their main motivation may well be to maintain contact with their children, which would otherwise be difficult with a child protection order in place.” He adds: “My approach to them is to be quite direct when it comes to the initial pre-group assessment and to find out if they want to take up the opportunity to change how things have been regarding abuse in their households. I am naturally reluctant to offer a place on the programme if
they aren’t willing to accept that their behaviour has been unacceptable and abusive. Most of the men who self-refer put their hands up and ask for help, which means they will engage healthily with the process. “The 2½ hour session is weekly for 25 weeks, plus an additional one-year relapse prevention and regular one-to-one meetings. It’s not a quick-fix to change a pattern of entrenched behaviour. We are keen that people recognise that the programme is not a magic wand, but the beginning of a journey of change.” Meanwhile, the Splitz children’s programme continues to prosper under coordinator Kim Patton and her team of five. The KidzPace and SplitzKidz services operate in different parts of Wiltshire with primary funding from BBC Children in Need and Comic Relief. Both areas provide one-to-one support and weekly structured group initiatives for young people and a concurrent group for their parent. TeenzTalk is a new initiative piloted in 2013 and delivered in schools with the aim of helping year 10 pupils to understand healthy relationships. It is an initiative that is already achieving some significant results and Kim hopes it will be possible to extend it to other schools in the near future, with the help of funding from the Police and Crime Commissioner. “Sometimes the changes are dramatic,” says Kim. “We have one boy of 15 who, because of his background, had no respect for any woman. He engaged really well with the programme and seemed to get a great deal out of it. The teachers say that they cannot believe the change in him since our sessions started. They say he is now a model Kim admits that it can be student and shows respect for women, teachers and students alike.”
tough sometimes to listen to children pouring out harrowing stories of the abuse they have suffered and witnessed
Kim admits that it can be tough sometimes to listen to children pouring out harrowing stories of the abuse they have suffered and witnessed. “You have to find a way to manage your own feelings or you couldn’t do the job,” she says. “Workers could go home unable to get a child out of their mind. It is easy to get emotional but you are there to help and to try to bring about a positive outcome. This is why it is so important to use external supervision effectively.”
When Splitz initially applied for funding, there were other organisations locally providing services for children up to age 11 years. Shortly after its services were launched for children over the age of 11, the funding to several
other organisations like Barnardos and NSPCC was drastically reduced which now leaves a gap in provision for children aged five to 11 years. Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Centres do highly acclaimed work with families with a child up to the age of four, but after that there is a serious lack of provision. This is extremely alarming for families with young children who are experiencing the horrors of domestic abuse. It is not possible for the same youth workers to work with children of all ages. There are different skills required when working with the different age groups and it is not always possible to find them in one person.
Capri Kaynak receives an award from Wiltshire Chief Constable Brian Moore in 2011 after contributing to a film about young peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s experiences of domestic violence
Splitz fact Splitz has achieved and maintained seven nationally recognised accreditation awards 49
Raising funding is one of the most important features of Splitz’s work because without it none of the service user issues can be tackled. While local councils do what they can, Splitz still relies heavily on grant-making private organisations and trusts.
11: Thank goodness for funders They come in all shapes and sizes, from massive charities that persuade the nation to give tens of millions in a single evening, to pensioners who walk through the door with a few pounds. But every funder is important to Splitz because without them the work that it does simply would not be possible. The money is clearly vital in itself, but so too is the fact that people feel the need to support the specific causes for which it stands and are prepared to trust the organisation to spend it to good effect.
In its early days, Splitz relied almost exclusively on what now seems a tiny grant of £19,000 a year
In its early days, Splitz relied almost exclusively on what now seems a tiny grant of £19,000 a year from the then Wiltshire County Council. It learned from the hard experience of a big cutback in 2001 that it was unwise to rely too heavily on any one funder and is now supported on a regular basis by more than 20 charities and businesses and a further dozen local authorities, organisations and initiatives. Through much of the charity’s existence, Fran Lewis has herself led the fund raising effort and she knows only too well how hard it can be. “It’s a tough world when you have a funding round to go through and a service to be potentially cut at the end of it,” she says. “We operate a range of different services and each of them has to individually stand up financially. Our accountant is scrupulous in ensuring that money donated for specific tasks is spent exactly where it should be.”
A changing approach from the major national charities which sees their support maintained over longer periods has been a great comfort for Splitz. BBC
Children In Need has been a Splitz supporter for 12 years now and is firmly behind its young people’s support services. Comic Relief is the other major funder for those services and is now in its ninth year, having at one time phased down support after three years.
The assessor shed some tears . . . and when he went back to his office in London they cried too
Fran recalls in particular a visit from a Comic Relief representative who met a 17-year-old on the KidzPace project. “He was totally overwhelmed by meeting a beneficiary who told him a very moving individual story,” she says. “The assessor shed some tears that day and when he went back to his office in London they cried too.” The Big Lottery Fund is another major supporter with its backing for the domestic abuse outreach service in Wiltshire. “I think they know that we actually deliver what we say we’re going to deliver,” says Fran. “They are very encouraging and helped us get a lot of things accurately recorded during our application process. They are an extremely approachable body.” Trusts and foundations provided a further level of vital support. On a national level, they include the J. Paul Getty Charitable Trust which gave £14,000 a year for three years. This significantly helped Splitz survive the trauma of the Wiltshire County Council cutback in 2001. Other national supporters include the Blagrave Trust, the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, The Charles Hayward Foundation and the Henry Smith Charity. Amongst the more local funders are several trusts such as the St James Trust, the Gannett Foundation and the Dawe Family Trust. All have come to recognise that Splitz is a well governed organisation and is putting their generosity to work to make the world a better place.
In 2010, fund raising became the responsibility of Andrew Farrow who thoroughly enjoyed the task of chasing the money that brings vital projects to life for his colleagues. Sadly, he died suddenly and unexpectedly in July 2014 and remains greatly missed by his colleagues, having made a big impression on all around him. Before he died, Andrew wrote movingly about his time with the charity. He said: “Shortly after I started work with Splitz I hit a bit of a low point in my life. The support from the rest of the staff was amazing and significantly contributed to the speed of my recovery. I was only on a six-month contract to ‘help out’ for a bit, but Fran did not mention anything (about the contract) towards the end of that period; tactful silence! “After about nine months I was really getting into the swing of things, when she mentioned a permanent contract. I was feeling a whole lot better by then.” Andrew developed healthy relationships with many of the funders who no longer expected begging letters The previous . . . three-year from Fran – just grant applications funding period is reverting from Andrew! He often phoned them after researching their to a single year, making websites and eligibility criteria, project planning very building his approach with great care. challenging Peter Davies took on the role of fund-raiser after Andrew’s sad death in 2014. He is in no doubt about the scale of the challenge at a time when everyone is facing up to the impact of austerity measures. Most noticeably, he says, the previous general acceptance of threeyear funding periods is reverting to a single year, making project planning very challenging.
A popular fund-raiser - soft toys
Says Peter: “My approach is one of a ‘team of all talents’ where operational staff are bedded in to the process of developing appropriate funding bids within a clear strategic development plan and a list of priorities.”
Splitz has its origins in working with single parents and it has continued to do so via its involvement with the Newburn House mother and baby unit in Trowbridge.
12: Babies who have babies The mystified face of the teenage mother who came to Sue Pearce’s office clutching a potato in one hand and a peeler in the other says much about the need for the Newburn House mother and baby unit in Trowbridge. Splitz was a partner in the project with the Westlea Housing Association from 2003 until 2014 when funding cut-backs brought its involvement to an end. “I had asked her to peel some “She knew what chips potatoes while I went to fetch were but she didn’t know something,” recalls Sue. “What I didn’t realise was that she didn’t they came from potatoes!” know what a potato was, let alone how to go about peeling it! She knew what chips were but she didn’t know they came from potatoes!” The girl in question was an extreme example, but was still not untypical of the young homeless mums who have barely left their own childhoods and are now facing the massive challenge of bringing up a baby single-handed. As Sue puts it: “They are babies who have had babies.” The Newburn House joint venture was launched after the Wiltshire Primary Care Trust commissioned a report in order to get a clearer picture of homelessness. One of the key issues it investigated was why so many teenage parents were returning to homelessness hostels as a result of failed tenancies. Splitz was at that time involved with three local homelessness hostels and a women’s refuge. “It was what became known as ‘revolving door
Splitz fact Splitz was awarded the Investors in People gold standard after meeting 177 evidence requirements
Fran Lewis (second right) with members of Westlea Housing Association’s Newburn House team
homelessness’ amongst 18 to 25-year-olds,” says Fran Lewis. “They would get allocated a tenancy and within six months or so it would fail. “No-one has shown them how to manage a tenancy and stressed the need to pay the rent and utilities, do the household chores and gardening and generally manage life. No-one got them to sign a bit of paper to direct their housing benefit straight to the landlord, and then along came a need for money to repair the pushchair or whatever. Some of the residents of Newburn House have been abandoned by the fathers of their children; some try to make a go of it as a couple and as parents.” Initially, there were sometimes problems with misuse of alcohol, drugs and glue sniffing. The girls had no idea how to manage a home and how to look after a baby. They were often estranged from their own mothers who had been through similar issues at the same stage in life.
The new teenage strategy that was put in place at that time stipulated that no 16 to 18-year-old should be allocated a housing tenancy without appropriate support, and so it was that Westlea decided to set up a residential mother and baby unit and invited Splitz, as the only local organisation with lone parenting expertise, to become a partner.
Hazel RutlandHouse and Sue Pearce prepare for cookery The Newburn team
For Fran, it was a return to the single parenting roots that had first resulted in Splitz being formed 14 years earlier. While Westlea owned and managed the unit, the task for Splitz was to work with the girls who came there to build the skills which gave them a better chance of successful long-term housing tenancies. The Splitz input was initially provided by Hazel Rutland. When she moved across to take on Westlea’s management role, Sue Pearce (now Sue Strickland) became the Splitz support worker. By that time, Sue already had extensive experience with the charity, having initially benefited from it as a service user. She liked all that she saw and became a Trustee as a means of giving something back. A trained hairdresser with long experience of listening to people’s life issues, Sue soon made Cookery lessons . . . became the transition into working partfundamental in not just time with women who had been building a vital skill but abused.
creating an interactive
The role at Newburn House was gathering from which all one in which she revelled, not least benefited in running the cookery lessons that became fundamental in not just building a vital skill but creating an interactive gathering from which all benefited. The value became all the greater following the addition of a large training kitchen, giving each resident her own kitchen corner with sink, fridge and cooker. A central island was created where Sue demonstrated. Crèche workers came in to take care of the babies during the session. “Cookery proved hugely beneficial and we even had one girl who set up her own cake-making business after leaving us,” says Sue. “But we did a lot of other project work around managing a budget and a home, and we had experts who came in to talk about everything from fire safety to legal issues and how to use books with babies. We obviously covered a lot of work in relation to parenting skills and how to look after your baby.”
“Our aim was to develop She adds: “Our aim was to develop confident young women who were confident young women able to face up to life regardless who were able to face up of what might be happening with to life regardless of what their baby’s father. They learned to take responsibility for their own might be happening . . .” lives and the lives of their babies, and work towards achieving and sustaining independence.” Newburn House accommodates four mums and babies at any one time and most now come on a three-month basis which spans the birth of the child and
helps them to build parenting confidence beyond that. Sue was also then able to provide floating support for up to two years for residents that had moved on and many still phoned her to chat through issues or for help with problem paperwork. The results from the Newburn House project speak for themselves. In ten years and with around 60 young mums passing through to date, no follow-on tenancy has ever failed. After eight years in the role, Sue thought she had experience The Newburn Hazel RutlandHouse and Sue team Pearce with young mums of just about every situation until she was asked to stand in as birthing partner to one of the girls at short notice. “I ended up driving her to hospital in Bath with the contractions already well underway,” she says. “When we got there, she wouldn’t let go of my hand and I ended up being the one to cut the cord!”
She was there at the beginning (when there was just her) and she still plays a key role today. The enigmatic Splitz Executive Director Fran Lewis has worked in the front line, driven the strategy and handled the fund raising.
13: The Fran factor There have been lots of accolades over the years, but in June 2010 came one which topped them all – an MBE for Fran Lewis in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to single parents and victims of domestic violence. It was, she insists, recognition not so much for her as for the organisation as a whole and the superb team that has worked with her to make the work of Splitz a success. Fran Lewis with her MBE at Windsor Castle Those who operate within the team and those who are close to it do not, however, allow her to deflect the personal honour quite so easily. The praise for her individual vision, commitment and sheer bloody-minded perseverance is universal. There is little doubt that, without her, it is unlikely that Wiltshire would today be able to boast an organisation that is quite so widely respected amongst those in the know. Retiring Trustees’ Chairman Paul Shotton says of her: “The thing about Fran is that she really likes people and many of those she meets are pleasantly startled by her radiant good wishes and the inevitable hug. She also understands people and has an instinct for finding and drawing the best
Splitz fact Splitz employs 93 staff with 20 volunteers and up to 15 trustees
from them. Staff and Trustees all respond to this, and even when she annoys you, you still smile and do whatever it is she asked!” As a Trustee for the past 17 years and the now retired Director of another local charity, Maggi Bader has worked closely with Fran for a long time and admits to having had some passionate debates with her.
The Newburn Much to celebrate House after team 25 years
“Fran’s great strength is that she can look beyond the problem to see the cause and then work backwards to find a solution,” she says. “She has tremendous drive and is a particularly good writer with the ability to put down on paper what matters without formality.” Others comment that Fran’s emails are written as she speaks – with passion and a sense of fun. Meetings The sessions Art Newburnhelp House to relax teamyoungsters with whom with her are full of personal Splitz works anecdotes and often involve irreverence towards decisionmakers. She is similarly forthright in face-to-face situations with such audiences, always standing up for those who ‘have no voice of their own’.
“Fran’s great strength is that she can look beyond the problem to see the cause and then work backwards to find a solution” 58
Long-standing staff member Nikki Stevens puts it this way: “Fran’s vision in recognising the need to look beyond the person who has been abused and to tackle the issues for children and perpetrators has been so significant.
“She has immense energy and that isn’t easy to maintain in this type of work. It is so easy to burn out when you have been doing it as long as she has and with such passionate belief. “She has maintained that even through the times when funding was a worry. That is what has seen us through and made us what we are today.” A former service user who has gone on to become a volunteer puts the ‘Fran factor’ very simply: “She is inspiring and yet she is very down-to-earth,” she says. “She is short and yet she is a big lady. There is always a sparkle with Fran. She gave me hope.” There is also general agreement amongst those in the know that Fran’s style of management benefits enormously from the fact that she has Louise Wilson by her side to drive the organisational side of what has become a substantial business. As Mike Bedford puts it: “Fran and Louise are from different parts of the ideal management structure. You have Fran who can engage with everyone at every level, while Lou is keeping a close eye on the detail. They make a great team.”
Male and female staff and volunteers run perpetrator programmes
With 25 successful years completed, Splitz recognises that the immediate future poses a number of tough challenges. Not least is the need to maintain and where possible develop a vital service at a time when funding has rarely been more difficult.
14: Whatever next? The direction that Splitz takes in the years ahead will be dictated in large part by the wider UK battle against domestic abuse and the currently fragile resources made available for the task. In recent months, Home Secretary Theresa May has taken personal charge of the police response after a damning report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabularies exposed ‘alarming and unacceptable’ weaknesses. Its conclusion was that only eight out of 43 forces had responded well to the issue. Police assessments obtained by The Guardian in 2014 showed that 10,000 women and their children were deemed to be at high risk of being murdered or seriously injured by current or former partners. The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) has in turn said that investment in specialist officers and better training of call handlers has already made a difference. It also pointed to the importance of partnerships with social services, local government, health, probation and specialist support organisations.
The ACPO lead on domestic violence, Assistant Chief Constable (Avon and Somerset) Claire Rolfe, says that police grapple with a “staggering” level of acceptance of domestic abuse and a genuine reluctance amongst victims to come forward. She added: “Victims of domestic
abuse don’t just need a criminal justice response; they may also need advice, counselling, help with moving home or support for their children.” But while the need for such support services is inarguable, the funds to make them happen are so often inconsistent with the level of priority that the Government publicly insists is applied. Splitz enjoys a good relationship with the police in each of its operational areas but recognises that they too are hindered by the issue of budgets. While there is general agreement that domestic violence protection orders (‘go orders’) are now a valuable tool in forcing suspected violent partners to leave the home, court applications to achieve them cost £250 a time. Many forces are then reluctant to use such a costly device. More of the same is, therefore, definitely needed from Splitz. The geographic boundaries have already been stretched and Splitz is now making a significant mark in Gloucestershire as well as in its Wiltshire heartland, in Bristol and most recently in Devon. While taking its special formula into other areas is quite likely in the coming years, the thinking in the management team is that expansion needs to be at a judicious rate and that new satellites need to be within a modest journey time of headquarters in Trowbridge. There is also potential to make its substantial knowledge base and resources available to those in other areas who are going down similar paths in tackling domestic abuse. It may well be that the organisation can itself become an accredited training provider and make some of the gems in its service portfolio available elsewhere while maintaining its accreditations. While significant change in the specific range of services offered is unlikely, Fran Lewis does have a wish list she would like to pursue if funding became available. She would, for example, like to see help offered to at-risk families at a much earlier stage on the basis that prevention is much more effective (not least in terms of cost) than cure. The idea of offering a ‘back-on-track’ service is little more than a concept thus far, but is one she would dearly love to develop. It could, she believes, include ex-offenders and their families. 61
“Wiltshire is far from alone in not offering family support at a low level, leaving it until a situation becomes really complex and dire”
“Wiltshire is far from alone in not offering family support at a low level, leaving it until a situation becomes really complex and dire,” she insists. “The reality is that problems tend to spiral quite quickly to a point where behaviour is entrenched and complex. It can then become more difficult to overcome.” You can also expect to see Splitz raising its voice to lobby in situations where government bodies need to gain a better understanding as well as provide the funding. The organisation sees that as the best way to mend a broken society. Louise Wilson has a particular passion to persuade decision-makers to take a longer term view of both policies and funding. “So many good projects fail simply because of a short-term approach that sees funding disappear after three years,” she says. “Politicians are the worst people for chopping and changing course before a particular policy has had time to be effective.” Beyond all else, the Splitz team is keen to ensure that its services remain responsive to the needs of the service users for whom it exists. The people who really matter are not just the current generation of victims but their children – and indeed the abusive partners who are prepared to seek help to change their behaviour. Confirmation of how well Splitz performs came towards the end of its first 25 years with an Investors In People gold award in December 2013. It marked bold progress from a bronze award in 2010 and silver in 2011. To achieve gold, Splitz had to meet no fewer than 177 evidence requirements. Making particular reference to the charity’s “immensely charismatic leader”, the assessor praised its “dynamic and innovative leadership team, the members of which constantly ‘live’ and reinforce the ethical values of the charity.” She added: “Your people are exceptionally highly motivated, in part, by the amount of trust and freedom they are given to innovate and use their knowledge and skills. People fully accept accountability for the outcomes of the work they do and are continually sharing ideas, making suggestions and thinking creatively about how to improve or extend the Splitz offering.”
Our services Domestic Abuse Outreach (Wiltshire) The long-running “Paloma Project” provides one-to-one support and structured group initiatives in Wiltshire and is financially supported by the Big Lottery Fund and the Wiltshire Community Safety Partnership. Gloucestershire Domestic Abuse Support Service (GDASS) An holistic domestic abuse outreach service funded by Gloucestershire County Council and delivered in partnership with GreenSquare Group. Includes one-to-one support, structured workshops, places of safety, court, sanctuary scheme and Independent Domestic Violence Advocacy (IDVA) for high risk victims. Community4 A generic housing-related floating support service for people in Wiltshire, delivered in partnership with three other local charities. Support is available to people who are, or could be, at risk of losing their home or require support to take up or sustain a tenancy. Young People’s Support Services A group of three projects for young people in Wiltshire who have been adversely affected by witnessing domestic abuse. KidzPace and SplitzKidz provide one-to-one support and structured group initiatives for young people, with a concurrent parent group. TeenzTalk is a new initiative delivered in schools and concentrating on healthy relationships. Buddy Scheme A volunteer mentoring and befriending service for people in Wiltshire who have completed structured support but still feel they need someone to talk to who understands their situation. Voluntary Perpetrator Programmes (Domestic Violence) Based on the Duluth model, the programme includes a 25-week programme for men, an integrated Women’s Safety Service for their wives and partners, and a 12-month follow-on Relapse Prevention Group. 63
“I remember a time my dad got angry and punched his computer and all the electricity broke and it didn’t work. Dad goes to (perpetrator) group to stop him getting so angry. Group helps dad a lot, so now he doesn’t get angry so much. He was very bad when he didn’t go to group and he got angry much more. When dad used to get angry mum was sad. I was annoyed because mum and dad didn’t get along much. Now it’s better” Danny, 7
SPLITZ SUPPORT SERVICE Head Office: Oak House, Epsom Square White Horse Business Park Trowbridge, Wiltshire BA14 0XG Tel: 01225 777724 (admin only) Fax: 01225 774405 Email: email@example.com Wiltshire Services Tel: 01225 775276 Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org Referrals: email@example.com Secure email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thank you The generosity of a group of individuals and companies has made it possible for us to produce this publication without having to divert funds from vital front line services Design: Su Elsden Original photography: David Hatfull of Diem Photography
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